Science and Pharmaceuticals Apprenticeships

Want to devote your life to curing diseases or tackling climate change? Or become the first person to clone a labradoodle? A career in science can take you anywhere!

Science and Pharmaceuticals Apprenticeships

Want to devote your life to curing diseases or tackling climate change? Or become the first person to clone a labradoodle? A career in science can take you anywhere!

You could become an epidemiologist and study the origins of disease. Or a veterinary nurse and help animals recover from their injuries. You could even become a scientist and invent the next Covid vaccine. How cool would that be?

Nowadays, you don’t even need a university degree to achieve those dreams. You can become a science or pharmaceutical apprentice straight after leaving school.

If you want to find out how science and pharmaceutical apprenticeships work, what the benefits of doing an apprenticeship are, and which apprenticeship scheme is right for you, read our guide below.

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Can you do a science apprenticeship?

Oh, absolutely! Gone are the days when you had to go to university to become a scientist. Doing an apprenticeship will get you that and more. Did you know that 91% of apprentices go on to secure employment after completing their training?

As a science apprentice, you’ll be paid to learn, gain hands-on experience in the process and graduate from your programme entirely debt free. Employers LOVE students who’ve done an apprenticeship. Why? Well, it shows they’re fit and work-ready.

By the time you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you’ll have years of work experience under your belt. And tons of skills too. These are crown jewels for recruiters and hiring managers!

If you’re doing your A-Levels, but aren’t sure whether going to university full-time is right for you, give an apprenticeship in science a go. You won’t regret it.

Here are your options…

Higher apprenticeships in Science

Higher (aka level 4/5) apprenticeships are academic programmes that allow you to combine work and study. As a higher apprentice, you’ll spend 80% of your time working for your employer and 20% studying at a college or training provider.

These apprenticeships are perfect if you’ve completed a level 3 apprenticeship or left school with at least 2 A-Levels.

Below is a list of higher-level science apprenticeships that are currently available:

  • Scientist

  • Laboratory Technician

  • Biology Laboratory Apprentice

  • Oncology Scientific Apprentice

  • QC Microbiology Lab Technician

So what happens after you’ve finished your programme? Well, you’ll get a Higher National Diploma (HND), a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or a foundation degree. If you work hard, you might even be offered a permanent position at the company.

Science degree apprenticeships

Degree (aka level 6/7) apprenticeships are good if you want an alternative path to university. As a degree apprentice, you’ll work, study for a qualification part-time AND get paid.

Your employer will cover your tuition fees so you won’t need to take out any expensive student loans either. What’s more - you’ll walk away with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree and 3 - 4 years of experience under your belt.

Degree apprenticeships allow you to fast-track up the career ladder - so you could buy that dream holiday to the Caribbean you’ve spent forever daydreaming about - before you know it.


Chemistry apprenticeships

Chemistry apprenticeships are blended learning programmes that offer practical and theoretical training to help you get the best out of your scheme.

Whether you’re in the lab formulating products or measuring different raw materials, an apprenticeship in chemistry paves the way for an amazing career indeed.

Want to get chemical? Have a look at two of England’s best providers of chemistry degree apprenticeships below and their entry requirements.

University of Bradford

This BSc degree apprenticeship programme takes up to 4 years to complete and will train you to become a qualified chemist. To get onto this course, you’ll need A-Level Chemistry with a minimum B grade.

University of Greenwich

As a BSc degree apprentice student at the University of Greenwich, you’ll learn about organic chemistry and build a range of analytical techniques that will help you in the forensic, chemical or pharmaceutical sectors. To qualify, you should take Maths and a science-based subject at A-Level.

Read on to find out what one chemistry degree apprentice had to say about their time at Unilever.

"Unilever has been a great company to work for, has given me a lot of opportunities to work on interesting projects and develop new and existing skills. It's a globally recognised company so it is great to have on my CV for the future. I also admire the company's stance on topics like sustainability." Research and development apprentice, Unilever

What is pharmaceutical science?

Pharmaceutical science is a specialist branch of science that focuses on drug discovery and development. Pharmaceutical scientists work in a variety of settings, from community pharmacies and research teams to hospitals and universities.

If you study pharmaceutical science, you’ll spend lots of time in the lab - but not any sort of lab - a biomedical and analytical lab. You’ll learn how the human body works, how diseases affect our bodies and all the good things that medication does for us.

Where can you do a pharmaceutical science apprenticeship?

You can do science and pharmaceutical apprenticeships all over the country. So whether you’re a born and bred Brummie or a stoater from Glasgow, there’s no limit to where you can do an apprenticeship.

Science and pharmaceutical apprenticeships are available at all the major pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms. Want to join Pfizer or AstraZeneca and invent the next COVID vaccine? Do it! You’ll never be short of opportunities.

Our Best Apprentice Employers guide is a great place to find companies who’ve gone above and beyond to deliver fantastic programmes for their apprentices. So if you need a hand kick-starting your job search but aren’t sure where to begin, definitely check it out.

Some of the best science and pharmaceutical employers for apprenticeships include...


Can you do an apprenticeship in pharmacy?

Pharmacists do way more than simply working in a pharmacy. They’re responsible for handling and distributing the correct dosage of medications to patients.

A pharmaceutical apprenticeship is a great way to launch your career in the industry. Starting as a pharmacy support apprentice, you’ll help prepare and dispose of medicines whilst studying towards a nationally recognised qualification on the side. Not only will you get all the qualifications without the university debt, you’ll also earn a paid salary and enjoy company benefits too. That’s pretty awesome if you ask us.

Here are some of the things you’ll be doing on-the-job:

  • Preparing and labelling medicines

  • Answering customer queries

  • Selling over-the-counter medicines

  • Accepting deliveries and handling stock

"I really enjoy it. I work as part of a team but also get some experience on my own. It’s very interesting and I’m always learning something new. The other route to this career would have been university but that’s not the way I like to work, I’m more of a hands-on person so learning on the job is perfect for me." Claire, Apprentice in Scientific Technologies

What qualifications do you need?

Pharmacy apprenticeships are available at intermediate level. This means they’re equivalent to getting 5 GCSEs graded at 9 to 4 (or A* - C).

Sometimes you’ll need qualifications in Maths and English. However, your employer will be the final decision-maker on that one.

How long is a pharmacy apprenticeship?

The length of your apprenticeship depends on your level.

For instance, a level 2 Pharmacy Services Assistant Apprenticeship takes 12-15 months to complete while a level 3 Pharmacy Technician Apprenticeship needs a good 2 years.

If you’re looking for an apprenticeship at one of the high street chains, check out Boots or McKesson (the parent company to Lloyds Pharmacy).


"I have learnt many skills whilst at work, listening effectively, speaking to individuals in the correct manner, presentation work, analysis etc." Apprentice at Boots

The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world. With over 350 different careers to choose from, join a team of over 1.7 million employees and kick-start your amazing future in healthcare. Interested in working for the NHS? Read our guide to NHS Apprenticeships.

What apprenticeships do GSK offer?

GSK is a global healthcare company that researches, manufactures and distributes pharmaceutical medicines. Merging the worlds of science and tech, it aims to deliver life-changing drugs that will save millions of lives.

As a business, GSK focuses on four main areas:

  • Infectious diseases

  • Oncology

  • Immunology

  • HIV

If you’re looking for a pharmaceutical apprenticeship, GSK offers advanced, higher and degree apprenticeships to school and college leavers. Below are GSK's apprenticeship programmes

Advanced apprenticeships (level 3) at GSK


As a GSK apprentice, you’ll work on life-saving machinery and improve your mechanical and electrical skills in the process. You’ll learn how to test and install new equipment and carry out routine maintenance checks.

Your first year will be theory-based with some practical elements to it. As you progress into second year, you’ll spend one day a week at college and the rest of your time on-the-job.


If you want to become a manufacturing technician, an apprenticeship with GSK will set you on the right path. You’ll learn how pharmaceutical products are made (from chemical processing to syrup manufacturing - not maple syrup, though that would be nice). You’ll also collect and analyse data.

Higher (level 4/5) and degree (level 6/7) apprenticeships at GSK

Laboratory Science

Laboratory Science apprenticeships are available in Manufacturing and Research & Development.

In each setting, you’ll learn about microbiological sampling and the sorts of processes drugs go through from production through to manufacturing.

If you’re on a chemistry apprenticeship, you’ll study for a BSc in Applied Chemical Science. However, if you’re on a biology apprenticeship, you’ll work towards a BSc in Applied Bioscience.

Pharmaceutical Science

An apprenticeship in pharmaceutical science revolves around making sure that products are fit for purpose and consumers are happy with them. Throughout your programme, you’ll fix laboratory issues and suggest ways to make supply chain processes more efficient.

Supply Chain

Want to know how GSK sources its raw materials, manufactures products and delivers them all over the world?

This apprenticeship will teach you all you need to know about end-to-end supply chains. One day you’ll be learning about warehouse management, the next discovering how international shipping and customs work.

Data Science

If you’re a Maths whizz, you’ll love working in data science. As an apprentice, you’ll spend your days analysing data to help GSK improve its manufacturing performance, as well as supporting sales and marketing to hit their weekly targets.


"I often find myself writing code for data cleaning, writing tests for data validation, and amending/updating existing code. I also assist in developing websites, dashboards, tools and applications which support other teams with their work." Data Science Apprentice, GSK

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